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"Isn't baby Jesus only brilliant?" midiman via Creative Commons

Cardinal Rules Part 5 An occasional column (not) by the Primate of All Ireland, healer and crisp fan

As Christmas 2010 draws close, (not) Cardinal Sean Brady shares his memories of a Christmas past.

How I spent last Christmas.
11.00: A beautiful Christmas morning. After breakfast everyone piles into the mini bus for mass. Doddery old Father Cronin, smiling, and confused as ever, hobbles onto the bus with a clump of shamrock pinned to his lapel. “Happy Saint Patrick’s day, Margaret” he says to me.
11.01: I send Father Cronin back into the house.
11.05: Young Father Deegan starts talking about the previous Christmas when he used the Heimlich manoeuvre to stop Father Ryan choking on a Brussels sprout. (Father Ryan still has the withered sprout to remind him of “the fleeting nature of existence.”) A nervy Father Deegan gives a typically over-excited account. Lots of eye rolling from the other priests.
11.15: Father Cronin gets back on the bus wearing a furry Saint Patrick’s day hat.
11.16: I send Father Cronin back into the house.
11.17: Father Deegan asks if anyone wants him to demonstrate the Heimlich manoeuvre. More eye rolling. Father O’ Shea looks as if he is about to raise his hand, but a stern look from me stops him in his tracks.
11.30: Father Cronin gets back on the bus clutching a St Brigid’s cross. “Happy Easter, Margaret” he says to me.
11.55: Arrive into the car-park  just in time for mass. I ignore Father Maher’s suggestion that I “Go into a skid.”
12.00: Mass. Two words. “Only” and “brilliant.”
12.50: Greet parishioners outside the church. A small child points his gun at me. In an effort to “fit in” I feign being shot and hold my hand over my chest and pretend to fall to the ground. A shriek from Mrs McCarthy: “He’s having a heart attack!” Father Deegan bursts through the crowd shouting “I know CPR!”
12.55: It takes two priests, three parishioners, and Mrs McCarthy beating him with her umbrella to get Father Deegan off me.
13.20: Drive mini bus back to the house. Awkward silence broken only by Father Cronin saying “This is the best bank holiday ever.”
13.50: Presents time. The usual. Bibles, golf clubs, socks, and Father Maher gets a Darth Vader voice changer helmet.
13.55: Father Maher, with his Darth Vader helmet on, asks if he can borrow my black cape. I give him a strict look, but then realise he can’t see me through the helmet.
13.56: I sidle away, leaving Father Maher talking to the wall.
14.30: I serve up dinner. An anxious Father Deegan inspects the Brussels sprouts.
14.31: Father Maher says grace before meals. With his Darth Vader helmet on.
14.45: Everyone eats dinner and thinks about how brilliant baby Jesus is. Every two minutes I say “Isn’t baby Jesus only brilliant?” just to keep everyone on their toes.
14.50: As per tradition, an inebriated Father Keogh talks about how things haven’t been the same since they cancelled the Top of the Pops Christmas special. Father Cronin asks when he’s getting his Kit Kat Easter egg.
15.30: Everyone sits down to watch telly. A lot of anxiety when we realise that both the original Willie Wonka and the Tim Burton version are on at the same time.

Heated discussion ensues. Father Cronin sleeps through it. Father Maher is walking around the room saying “I find your lack of faith disturbing” and laughing. Father Deegan’s eyes dart from priest to priest. Father Lawlor and Father Bergin go “toe to toe” over the relative merits of each version. Father Keogh is sitting in a corner crying about John Peel. I attempt to calm things down. Suddenly Father Cronin sits bolt upright, face red, eyes bulging, clutching his throat. Father Deegan leaps across the room, sending Father Maher flying into a book case in the process. Father Deegan grabs Father Cronin around the midriff and pushes. The potentially fatal object flies across the room.
15.45: The ambulance arrives. Father Cronin has a cracked rib. Father Maher possible concussion. I get a sheepish Father Deegan to fish Father Cronin’s false teeth out from what remains of our television screen.
15.50: As the paramedics lift the stretcher, Father Cronin grabs my arm. “Abby gwissmiss, Mawgwet” he says and smiles. “Indeed” I sigh as I pat him on the shoulder “Happy Christmas.”

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(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady